How can I help my student focus and learn? It’s a big concern for many teachers. Many special students have the potential to learn if they could only pay attention. While medication can be very helpful for many it is often not enough or not an option for all students. Here are five tools to help:
1. Use a Weighted Vest
A recent small study showed children with ADHD showed significant increases in on-task behavior while wearing a weighted vest. VandenBerg, N.L. (2001) The use of a weighted vest to increase on-task behavior in children with attention difficulties. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(6), 621-628. Another study conducted by the Challenge Infant Developmental Center of Brooklyn, New York found that children with autism who used a weighted vest increased their attention to task and had less self-stimulatory behaviors. Fertel-Daly, D., Bedell, G., & Hinojosa, J. (2001). Effects of a weighted vest on attention to task and self-stimulatory behaviors in preschoolers with pervasive developmental disorders. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(6), 629-640.
2. Use a Wiggle Seat
Setting a small air filled cushion or “wiggle seat” on a student’s chair allows them to wiggle without distracting their classmates. A couple of studies have found both kids with ADHD and those with autism increased their ability to pay attention and stay on task in the classroom using these. Schilling & Swartz, (2004) Alternative seating for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: effects on classroom behavior.; The Journal of autism and developmental disorders: 423-32. As a group, students with IEPs and those considered At-Risk improved in accuracy, fluency, and comprehension while seated on an air-filled cushion. The teacher and the students felt the cushion was not disruptive and easily fit into the classroom routine.
3. Use a Visual Timer
Using visual timers can help students increase their understanding of the passage of time, increase time awareness, and help with focus and attention. A better understanding of the passage of time can also relieve a student’s stress and anxiety freeing them up mentally to focus.
4. Give Students a Fidget to Hold
In the book Fidget to Focus authors Rotz, & Wright, 2005 found that giving students small fidgets also increased classroom attention to task. Good fidgets feel interesting, provide lots of finger movement and are quiet.
5. For Restless Legs Use an Exercise Band
Place an Exercise Band around the bottom of two front chair legs to help your student focus. Students can sit, kick against the band under their desk and fidget with their feet without disturbing the class.
We hope these tools are helpful to you. Have another tool you use to help your students focus? Please share it with us!